Tips For Aspiring Photographers

John Hafner is one of the best—if not THE best—outdoor photographers on the planet, and he has some great advice for anyone looking to make a career out of shooting stunning photos.

One of my primary jobs as senior managing editor with North American Hunter is finding spectacular photos for use in print and online. During my past 12 years at NAH, I’ve shared hunting camp with many talented photographers, and I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to one of the best, John Hafner.

“For over a decade,” John wrote on his website, “I've been blessed to travel the world, shooting assignments for many of the outdoor industry’s biggest names. From Alaska to Zimbabwe and many places in between, I've photographed amazing places, countless faces and unforgettable adventure. I've been fortunate to collaborate on advertising campaigns, catalogs and magazine stories with people who share my passion for God's great outdoors. While I've had more fun and adventure than a skinny kid from Pennsylvania ever thought possible, I truly believe my best work is yet to come.”

Recently on his personal Facebook page, John explained in detail the camera gear he uses in the field. I found his comments interesting, and he agreed to let me share them here.

“I get a lot of questions about what gear I use, which lens I recommend for shooting (fill in the blank), how I travel with my gear, and what advice I have for aspiring photographers. I wish I could reply to everyone, but I can't. So here are a few random thoughts that might help.

“When I fly, I carry on my cameras and lenses, and I check my lighting kit. There's no guarantee that TSA won't destroy your gear, but that's just part of it. I could probably shoot most of my assignments with a 24mm and a 50mm, but I usually pack a lot more lenses than that.

“As far as advice for aspiring photographers . . . follow your heart, but don't quit your day job right away, have thick skin, expect competition, learn how to run a business (gross is not net), save more than you spend, and don't expect to have much time to hunt. Above all, be grateful for every opportunity, and never stop pushing yourself to produce the best work you can.

“There's always room for improvement. I learn new things all the time, and I always tell myself that my best work is yet to come. There's no secret formula to all this. But if I can sort of figure this out, you can, too.”

John concluded his Facebook post by including the following gear list:

  • Cameras: Nikon D4, D810 and D610
  • Lenses: 14-24mm f/2.8, 24 f/1.4, 24-70mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.4 & f/1.8, 135mm f/2.0, 300mm f/2.8 & 1.4X teleconverter
  • Lighting: Elinchrom and Nikon Speedlites
  • Cases: Pelican
  • Misc: Manfrotto tripod, Lexar memory cards, G Drives, Photoshop and Lightroom, gear and liability insurance, and one very supportive wife (shown with John in selfie below).

Click here to learn more about John Hafner Photography.

Does John hunt? You bet he does! Below is John with his 16-point Kansas non-typical that scored 181! He also loves to turkey hunt, and he took the image that appeared on the Feb/March 2013 cover far below.

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